Most employers, especially in manufacturing, construction and other high-risk environments, are probably quite familiar with OSHA’s recordkeeping and reporting requirements. Until now, employers have been required to report any work-related fatalities to OSHA, as well as any incident that led to three or more hospitalizations. Many workplaces also had to keep records of work-related injuries and illnesses so OSHA could consult them during an inspection.
Last week, though, OSHA announced it has finalized a new rule related to accident reporting and recordkeeping, and employers should take note. The changes in the new rule require employers to report different kinds of accidents to OSHA than they have in the past, and these changes will impact businesses in many industries. The changes will go into effect on January 1, 2015, for workplaces covered by federal OSHA.
New Reporting Rules
Under the new rule, employers will need to continue reporting all fatalities to OSHA within eight hours of learning about the accident. Now, however, they will also need to report any in-patient hospitalizations, amputations and losses of an eye to the agency within 24 hours of learning about a work-related incident. The new rules will allow OSHA to collect more data about serious accidents to help prevent similar incidents from occurring in the future.
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“Today, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that 4,405 workers were killed on the job in 2013. We can and must do more to keep America’s workers safe and healthy,” Thomas E. Perez, U.S. Secretary of Labor, said in a press release. “Workplace injuries and fatalities are absolutely preventable, and these new requirements will help OSHA focus its resources and hold employers accountable for preventing them.”
OSHA explains that any injury where a worker is admitted to the hospital is serious, and only requiring reporting when an accident leads to three or more hospitalizations neglects a significant amount of injuries.
The requirements for reporting amputations and the loss of an eye are entirely new, so employers should pay attention to these changes. In many cases, however, a worker suffering an amputation or the loss of an eye would likely be admitted to the hospital, so the incident would need to be reported anyway.
Recordkeeping Rule Changes
While most industries will not experience drastic recordkeeping changes as a result of OSHA’s new recordkeeping rules, businesses should check to make sure they aren’t in one of the industries that will experience changes. Under the old rule, two types of companies were partially exempt from injury and illness recordkeeping: those with 10 or fewer employees and those who fell into a category of industries that were considered low-risk.
Under the old system, low-risk industries were classified using the Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) system, but now OSHA will use the North American Industry Classification System (NAISC) to classify which industries businesses belong to (and as a result, whether they will need to keep records of injuries and illnesses).
To determine whether their industries are partially exempt from recordkeeping, businesses can consult OSHA’s final rule. Companies in industries like retail, real estate, health care and educational services, for example, are often exempt because of the low injury and illness rates in those industries. More dangerous industries like forestry, agriculture, hunting, fishing, mining, construction and manufacturing, on the other hand, are not partially exempt.
Employers in all industries—even those that are partially exempt from recordkeeping—should keep in mind that if they experience a work-related fatality or an accident that results in an in-patient hospitalization, amputation or loss of an eye, they are still responsible for reporting that information to OSHA. No workplaces are exempt from reporting these kinds of accidents.
Making Reporting Easier
OSHA is currently working on an electronic reporting form so employers will be able to easily report accidents online. Until the new reporting system is up and running, accidents must still be reported by phone within eight or 24 hours (depending on the type of accident).
In its final rule, OSHA addresses many comments the agency received from businesses, trade associations and individuals about the changes to recordkeeping and reporting. The final rule acknowledges that recordkeeping and reporting take time and effort on the part of employers, and the online reporting system may alleviate this burden a bit by simplifying the reporting process.
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